Cormac McCarthy (born Charles McCarthy, July 20, 1933) is an American novelist who has steadily risen in stature over the past 20 years. Though he has written since the 1960s, it was the publication of his book All the Pretty Horses in 1992, and its subsequent cinematic adaptation, that brought him widespread recognition.
His reputation as one of the best living American writers was cemented in the placing of his book Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West behind Don Delillo's Underworld and Toni Morrison's Beloved in a New York Times poll of the Greatest American novels of the last 25 years.
While McCarthy has written books in genres such as historical fiction, Southern Gothic, crime and post-apocalyptic science fiction, most of his works are, at heart, Westerns.
In early 2012, he made a big splash by selling his first screenplay, titled The Counselor, a drug thriller about a naive attorney who becomes involved in the drug trade. It was immediately picked up by the producers of the film adaptation of The Road, with Ridley Scott signing on to direct.
Works by McCarthy with their own pages include:
- The Orchard Keeper (1965)
- Outer Dark (1968)
- Child of God (1973)
- Suttree (1979)
- Blood Meridian (1985)
- All the Pretty Horses (1992)
- The Crossing (1994)
- Cities Of The Plain (1998)
- No Country for Old Men (2005)
- The Sunset Limited (2006 play, adapted into a television film in 2011)
- The Road (2006, adapted into a film in 2009)
- The Counselor (2013, screenplay)
- The Passenger (TBA)
Other works by McCarthy contain examples of:
- Ambiguously Human: Anton Chigurh and Judge Holden.
- The Anti-Nihilist: What "carrying the fire" means. It's for this reason that McCarthy's work is often taught in conjunction with courses on Nietzsche (and to a lesser extent Kierkegaard).
- Arc Words:
- Beige Prose: Blood Meridian and onwards are these.
- Eye Scream: In The Crossing, after the Mexican revolutionary mouths off to the German mercenary Wirtz and spits in his face, Wirtz proceeds to lick up the spittle, swallow it, smile, then sucks out the man's eyeballs with his mouth, leaving them to dangle down his face. The revolutionary talks about how, due to his eyes hanging from his face via a handful of nerves, the world seems to jostle as his eyes sway back and forth on his march back to camp.
- The Kid from Blood Meridian stabs a bartender in the eye with a broken bottle because the bartender refused to pay him for sweeping the floor.
- Karma Houdini: Frequently. Most notably, the three murderous strangers of Outer Dark, Judge Holden of Blood Meridian, and possibly Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men.
- Knife Fight: In The Border Trilogy.
- Reclusive Artist: While he does have conversations with journalists, he hates giving interviews, talking about his own work, or even talking about writing.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The Crossing.
- Signature Style
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: In The Crossing, a priest tells the story of a heretic who lost his entire family and demanded that if God exists, that he reveal himself by killing him on the spot or showing him some sign of his existence. The heretic sat for days in the same spot under a tower, asking for God to cause the tower to fall and kill him.
- Southern Gothic: His pre-Blood Meridian work, in stark contrast to the Westerns he's most famous for.
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: McCarthy has a number of stylistic idiosyncrasies, but his most pronounced is his continual refusal to use quotation marks, as well as an aversion to apostrophes when using contractions. Another quirk of his is that in many, if not all, of his books, there is not a single exclamation mark. At all. In an interview, he stated it's just because he doesn't want to clutter up the page.